April 01, 2020 Columns

Chair’s Column

By Christian F. Binnig

As readers of this issue (and recent prior issues) of Infrastructure may discern, we have begun to organize each issue around a theme. A tip of the hat to Bill Drexel, Chair of our Section’s Content Coordination Committee and Editor of Infrastructure, for developing and implementing this concept. A main theme for the current issue is “change”—specifically, change being wrought by what Bill aptly terms our “nation’s information-age electronic infrastructure.”

Yet as I review the current issue of Infrastructure, I am reminded of the French saying, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”—the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is no doubt that our economy, and our society, are in the midst of a fundamental transformation as we become further ensconced in the digital age. To remain relevant, our institutions, including our legal institutions, can and must adapt. But in doing so, we are guided by lessons learned from the past.

This is nowhere more true than in the case of the law. As the articles in this issue of Infrastructure illustrate, our legal system—and in particular, the legal principle of precedent—provides us with many tools to analyze novel and complex legal issues using established principles and constructs. Irrespective of whether you subscribe to the “development-by-accumulation” theory of progress or the episodic model of progress argued for by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, our past provides the building blocks for future change.

These lessons certainly apply to the ABA and to our Section, both of which are undergoing change in order to stay relevant to the legal profession we serve. In my previous columns, I’ve mentioned our Section’s expanded outreach to Section members, including our Twitter feed, where we post timely links to legal developments of interest and importance to members. I again encourage all of you who are not yet following our Twitter feed to do so: our Twitter “handle” is @AmericanBarIRIS. While you are on Twitter, you also might want to check out the Twitter feeds of other ABA sections or of Judy Perry Martinez (@ABAPresident) and Trish Refo (@abapres_elect), who regularly tweet about ABA initiatives.

Another of our Section’s initiatives is to create additional “industry” committees of the Section to address emerging legal and regulatory issues arising from the digital age and the next generation of infrastructure service providers. We currently are working to create two new industry committees, one to address legal issues faced by the next wave of transportation service providers, focusing on automated vehicle providers and software-based ride-sharing transportation companies (what we tentatively call our “Transportation Service Providers Committee”), and another to address the legal issues faced by internet-based providers of information, entertainment, social networking, and other commercial services clothed with a public interest (to which we’ve given the working title “Internet-Based Service Providers Committee”). Both of these committees are at an embryonic stage. If you are interested in joining either of these committees and helping us launch them into the digital age, or if you know of any friends or colleagues who would be interested in doing so, please drop me a line.

As always, I welcome any thoughts, comments, or suggestions you have regarding our Section and how we might improve your experience as a Section member. I can be reached at cbinnig@mayerbrown.com.


By Christian F. Binnig